Valentine's Day and it's chocolates and flowers has come and gone. Of all the flowers, roses seem to be most closely associated with love and Valentine's Day. Perhaps it's not hard to figure why if you consider how long roses have been around. I read that according to fossil evidence, roses have been around for some 35 million years. Roses also grow across a wide area of the globe, perhaps contributing to their popularity. You'll find about 150 species growing throughout the Northern Hemisphere-including North and Central America, Europe, Asia and North Africa.
The cultivation of roses in the garden probably started in China about 5,000 years ago. If you were alive during Roman times you would have seen roses being grown extensively in the Middle East. Roman nobility were fond of roses and planted public rose gardens.
Roses eventually spread throughout Europe. They were used as symbols in the historic English conflict the "War of the Roses," and Napoleon's wife Josephine established a large collection of them at the estate called Chateau de Malmaison a few miles west of Paris. It is a garden I hope to visit someday.
Roses come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, so you may be surprised to learn that most modern roses were bred from only eight European and Asian rose species.
There are roses for just about any garden, from rock garden to container garden. Typically roses are classified in one of three categories: bush roses, climbing roses and shrub roses.
Bush roses are self supporting and typically bear their flowers at the top of the plant. In this group you'll find hybrid tea roses, hybrid perpetual, floribundas, grandifloras, polyantha roses, miniature roses, and tree (aka "standard") roses. These are the most popular kinds of roses, and the kind you'll most likely find when you purchase roses for your Valentine. My longtime favorite in this group is ‘Mr. Lincoln,' a deep red, fragrant rose that I always felt was a standout in the garden.
Climbing roses are aptly named. They are vigorous growers and do well with some support, such as a trellis or fence. A climbing rose in full bloom is certainly spectacular, especially if it is fragrant.
Shrub roses are resurging in popularity, perhaps because they have a dense growth habit and need little care. I'm all for less work in the garden. I have a large Rosa rugosa that never fails to bloom it's head off every year and provide attractive rose hips after flowering. My plant was originally a small start from a former neighbor when I lived in Virginia Beach, Va., more than a dozen years ago. My neighbor and his wife are now deceased, but they were the epitome of a loving Valentine's couple and I think of them every time I see that rose in my garden.
Perhaps what I'm working my way around to is to suggest that maybe a live rose that you plant in your garden this spring might be a way to extend the nice sentiments of Valentine's Day so you can enjoy them for many months to come.
Small, large, fragrant or uniquely colored, roses are like friendly royalty in a garden. They add beauty and sophistication, but there are many types that are easy to grow and not as fussy as you might imagine.
For detailed information about roses, visit the American Rose Society's website at www.ars.org.
Susan Brimo-Cox gardens, observes nature and writes in Ohiopyle, Pa. Readers can send questions or comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.